Words and Epigrams

Public pranks should be seen as a crass, desperate attention grab unless there’s a risk of genuine physical or mental damage.

Tom Green

In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.

The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the Government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.

Justice Hugo Black, US Supreme Court

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

Oscar Wilde

A nation of slaves is always prepared to applaud the clemency of their master who, in the abuse of absolute power, does not proceed to the last extremes of injustice and oppression.

Edward Gibbon

There are in fact four very significant stumbling blocks in the way of grasping the truth, which hinder every man however learned, and scarcely allow anyone to win a clear title to wisdom, namely, the example of weak and unworthy authority, longstanding custom, the feeling of the ignorant crowd, and the hiding of our own ignorance while making a display of our apparent knowledge.

Roger Bacon (Opus Magus, 1267)

The mass State has no intention of promoting mutual understanding and the relationship of man to man; it strives, rather, for atomization, for the psychic isolation of the individual.

Carl Jung

I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.

Noam Chomsky

Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us [by corporations, political parties and oligarchs] with military efficiency… Taken to its extreme, this process creates an enduring digital profile that lets companies know you better than you may know yourself… Rogue actors and even governments have taken advantage of user trust to deepen divisions, incite violence, and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false. This crisis is real. It is not imagined, or exaggerated, or ‘crazy.

Tim Cook (Apple CEO)

By and large, academic institutions have shifted from being the accusers of corporate capitalism to being its accomplices. They are intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries.

Terry Eagleton (Death of the Intellectual, 2008)

Corporate officials, [as] stewards of other people’s money, have no authority to pursue such [humanitarian] goals as ends in themselves—only as means to serve the corporation’s own interests, which means to maximise the wealth of its shareholders. Corporate social responsibility is thus illegal—at least when it’s genuine.

Joel Bakan (The Corporation, 2004)

The spaces allotted to independent journalists (myself included) have vanished. The dissent that was tolerated, even celebrated when I arrived in Fleet Street in the 1960s, has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism sheds the last illusions of democracy. This is a seismic shift.

John Pilger

The true source of the contrivance known as “fake news” is not merely social media, but a liberal “mainstream” self-anointed with a false respectability that claims to challenge corrupt and warmongering power but, in reality, courts and protects it, and colludes with it.

Glenn Greenwald

By omitting the devastating impact of sanctions, corporate media attribute sole responsibility for economic and humanitarian conditions to the national government, thereby using the misery provoked by sanctions to validate the infliction of even more misery.

John McEvoy

In bourgeois society, therefore, the past dominates the present; in Communist society, the present dominates the past. In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality.

Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto (1848)

Popular revolt against a ruthless, experienced modern government, which enjoys a monopoly over weapons and communications… is simply not a possibility in the modern age… People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid.

Soren Kierkegaard

The artificial schism of capitalism (free and empowered individual citizen) and socialism (collective support safeguarding all citizens) is the most divisive misdirection of the modern world. Small wonder it’s been conditioned so deeply into the minds of the population. The ruling class knows reality is a complex tapestry of regulations blending both economic systems in a way that profits the wealthy and gives as little freedom and security as is unavoidable. The main role of modern democracy is to balance public and private interests so society stays stable with as little disruption to extant wealth and power distribution as possible. Stability, as a government mandate, is biased towards ring-fencing lineage wealth and the power of elites. This creates a natural excess of conservative exploitation, always pushing the limits of how far the citizen can be bled. Elections are used as a litmus for these limits. It’s a short-sighted dynamic that’s not only retarding society’s progress and slowly impoverishing most of the population but ultimately risks trapping power and wealth in a moribund cannibalistic dynamic. This is a sure-fire recipe for a degraded future – for the elite and the proletariat alike.

Buzz Aldrin

Technology is a unique agent of change in the world. Its benefits are myriad, impossible to ignore or resist. The scale of socioeconomic and cultural disruption demands foresight and organized handling. Technology is the real-world expression of human-driven evolution rather than, for billions of years, evolution having been left to natural selection. The homo sapiens brain works exponentially faster than Mother Nature but the jury’s out whether, as a species, there’s enough wisdom to walk the line between technology changing our world and our changed world creating the conditions of human extinction.

Michael Collins

Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is founded, and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the freest and most popular.

David Hume

Listen, strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you. If I went ’round sayin’ I was Emperor, just because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away!

Denis, Oppressed Peasant

I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.

Carl Jung

Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

George Orwell

Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.

Groucho Marx

It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear.

Douglas MacArthur

I’m not saying you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you say. But what I’m saying is if you believed something different you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.

Noam Chomsky (to various news anchors and journalists)

Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence—those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you’d collapse. And while you people are overconsuming the rest of the world sinks more and more deeply into chronic disaster.

Aldous Huxley

I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil, an evil whose possibility spreads well beyond that which weapons of mass destruction bequeathed to the nation-states, on to a surprising and terrible empowerment of extreme individuals.

Bill Joy

It’s not so hard to see how AI could one day make better decisions than we do about careers, and perhaps even about relationships. But once we begin to count on AI to decide what to study, where to work, and whom to date or even marry, human life will cease to be a drama of decision making, and our conception of life will need to change. Democratic elections and free markets might cease to make sense. So might most religions and works of art… Currently, humans risk becoming similar to domesticated animals. We have bred docile cows that produce enormous amounts of milk but are otherwise far inferior to their wild ancestors. They are less agile, less curious, and less resourceful. We are now creating tame humans who produce enormous amounts of data and function as efficient chips in a huge data-processing mechanism, but they hardly maximize their human potential. If we are not careful, we will end up with downgraded humans misusing upgraded computers to wreak havoc on themselves and on the world.

Yuval Noah Harari

But even in the much-publicized rebellion of the young against the materialism of the affluent society, the consumer mentality is too often still intact: the standards of behavior are still those of kind and quantity, the security sought is still the security of numbers, and the chief motive is still the consumer’s anxiety that he is missing out on what is “in.” In this state of total consumerism – which is to say a state of helpless dependence.

Christopher Hitchens

Governments are deemed to succeed or fail by how well they make money go round, regardless of whether it serves any useful purpose. They regard it as a sacred duty to encourage the country’s most revolting spectacle: the annual feeding frenzy in which shoppers queue all night, then stampede into the shops, elbow, trample and sometimes fight to be the first to carry off some designer junk which will go into landfill before the sales next year. The madder the orgy, the greater the triumph of economic management.

George Monbiot

To ameliorate and raise the standard of the workingmen to the bourgeois level, is perhaps to create a race of slaves content with their lot – a cast of comfortable Pariahs.

Remy de Gourmont (1858-1915)

It is not only the hostility of others that may prevent us from questioning the status quo. Our will to doubt can be just as powerfully sapped by an internal sense that societal conventions must have a sound basis, even if we are not sure exactly what this may be, because they have been adhered to by a great many people for a long time. It seems implausible that our society could be gravely mistaken in its beliefs, and at the same time, that we would be alone in noticing the fact. We stifle our doubts, and follow the flock, because we cannot conceive of ourselves as pioneers of hitherto unknown difficult truths. It is for help in overcoming our meekness that we can turn to the philosopher.

Alain de Botton

Only a large-scale popular movement toward decentralization and self-help can arrest the present tendency toward statism… A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and schoolteachers… The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.

Aldous Huxley